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Only in the Philippines

THE DAY AFTER I RETIRED last year from the Philippines News Agency (PNA) as managing editor and for some time as acting executive editor after 47 years, I found myself once again in front of my computer writing a feature for PNA. 

My wife blurted out: “Honey, aren’t you retired?” I smiled then said: “Yes, hon, I’m retired but not tired!” 

The word retirement isn't in my dictionary, I laughingly told her.  At 65 and counting, I’m still very active in writing as my passion and relaxation. 

Since “retiring” in 2010, my former employer has hired me as a correspondent.  I helped revive the newspaper of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which had been defunct for more than a decade.  I’ve written two coffee table books in the last year.  And I’m currently writing what will be my sixth book,Victory at Bessang Pass, the true story of Filipino and American guerrillas during World War II who waged a historic six-month campaign to defeat the mighty Japanese Imperial Army at Bessang Pass.  And now, my friends at The Media Project have asked me to write my first-ever column as a journalist, reflecting on what I’ve seen in my career. 

As I said in my first book, "God's divine power is behind all my strength". And every day now, I read Psalm 71, a "prayer in the time of old age" for protection and mercy. For it is "in You, Lord, (that) I take refuge."

Across 47 years in the mainstream of Philippine media, I had the rare the privilege to cover firsthand numerous incidents – good, bad, and ugly - across the Philippines.  I covered the war in southern Philippines, the historic Aquino trial of the 20th century, the People Power Revolution in 1986, and seven of nine coup attempts to name a few. I’ve had near-death experiences while covering some of these events. Maybe it was destiny for me to survive to chronicle these historic events that unfolded before my eyes.

I started as a reporter and proofreader in the Bohol Chronicle and its twin enterprise radio Station DYRD at the age of 17 in my hometown in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, in Central Philippines in 1963.

My biggest break came when I wrote a feature article about a foreign tourist I met visiting our province.  He was traveling around the world with only $2 in his pocket! The story was not only used in the Bohol Chronicle but it landed in the national paper, the now defunct Philippines Herald. I could not believe it when I read my story in a national broadsheet based in Manila. That inspired me to write and write, up to the present day.

By the time President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared martial law on Sept. 21, 1971, I was working in Manila. When I woke up that morning, all TV channels and all radio stations were off the air. I tried to buy a newspaper, but there was none.  All newspapers were closed down and many journalists were jobless, including me. I tried to apply as an accounting clerk, which is my other “profession” being a commerce graduate, but no one dared to hire me. When Marcos allowed some media outfits to open, provided they only wrote non-critical stories, I decided to go back to journalism.

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